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Union or Secession
  • "From the stand-point of a pro-slavery man"
John Brown Baldwin, of Augusta County, defended slavery on March 21, 1861, when he made a long speech in opposition to secession.
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  • John Brown Baldwin (1820–1873). Photograph in Special Collections, Library of Virginia.
    John Brown Baldwin
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"From the stand-point of a pro-slavery man"

Excerpt from a speech of John Brown Baldwin in the Virginia Convention on March 21, 1861, printed in George H. Reese and William H. Gaines, Jr., eds., Proceedings of the Virginia State Convention of 1861 (Richmond: Virginia State Library, 1965), 2:142.

John Brown Baldwin, of Staunton, was one of three delegates from the Shenandoah Valley county of Augusta in the Virginia Convention. On March 21, 1861, he made a long speech in opposition to secession. Like many of the other Unionists in the convention, he believed that slavery would be safer in Virginia if the state remained in the Union than if Virginia seceded. None of the opponents of secession in the convention was an opponent of slavery. "I have always entertained the opinion that African slavery, as it exists in Virginia, is a right and a good thing," Baldwin said, "on every ground, moral, social, religious, political and economical—a blessing alike to the master and the slave—a blessing to the non-slaveholder and the slaveholder." Baldwin was absent on April 4, 1861, when the convention defeated a motion to secede because he had gone to Washington to talk with President Abraham Lincoln about how to settle the secession crisis. Baldwin voted against secession on 17 April when a majority voted in favor, but he later signed the Ordinance of Secession.

Excerpt from a speech of John Brown Baldwin in the Virginia Convention on March 21, 1861, printed in George H. Reese and William H. Gaines, Jr., eds., Proceedings of the Virginia State Convention of 1861 (Richmond: Virginia State Library, 1965), 2:142.

I have always entertained the opinion that African slavery, as it exists in Virginia, is a right and a good thing—on every ground, moral, social, religious, political and economical—a blessing alike to the master and the slave—a blessing to the non-slaveholder and the slaveholder. I entertain these views and opinions now. Sir, I am not one of those who look forward with expectation or desire, to its extinction at any time or in any place. I am not one of those who look with any sort of sympathy upon attempts to restrict it to any particular locality, but, so far as I am concerned, if it can be done by fair, legitimate and honest expansion and extension, I have no objection that this mild, beneficent and patriarchal institution may cover the whole earth as the waters cover the great deep.
These are my own opinions upon this subject—opinions, not now expressed for the first time, but entertained and expressed all my life, everywhere, and perfectly understood by the constituent body that sent me here. My people who have sent me here with these avowals upon my lips might be regarded, I suppose as sound even a little farther South.
Sir, I wish, in the consideration of all these questions, that it shall be remembered, however my views of what concerns the interest and the honor of Virginia, may differ from the views of other gentlemen in other parts of the State, that I take them from the stand-point of a pro-slavery man, representing a slaveholding constituency; aye, sir, representing a constituency who have in men and in money, more resources than any other people in this Old Dominion, and who hold all their resources at the call of the Commonwealth, to protect and defend this great interest as earnestly and devotedly as any other interest whatever.